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FAMU inks historic deal

Black TV News Channel finds home at historical HBCU

Miami Times staff report | 3/27/2014, 9 a.m.
—Photo credit: Kanya Stewart and Angelica Washingoton L-R Front Row: Senator Marco Rubio, Rep. Alan Williams, Mayor John Marks, Congressman J.C. Watts, Interim President Larry Robinson, Rep. Nick Maddox, Rep. Shevrin Jones. L-R Back Row: Regional Director Brian Mimbs, Lori Hutto, Attorey Sean Pittman, Interim Provost Rodner Wright, Dean Ann Wead Kimbrough, Rep. Bobby Powell, Congressman Kendrick Meek, Frank Watson, BTNC.

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) School of Journalism recently made history after signing on to become the nation's only Black-owned cable news network.

Partnering with the Black Television Network (BTNC),The achievement marks an unprecedented milestone in Black history. After the Black Entertainment Televison (BET) dropped news from its programming in 1996, there were no Black-owned and operated 24-news television news station in the country. 

“At a time when jobs are shrinking and there is change in the multimedia market, the Black Television News Network is a job creator,” Larry Robinson, Ph.D, interim president said. “It positively impacts our students by allowing them to enhance and apply the knowledge gained in the classroom, thus better positioning them for the world of work from their exposure to cutting edge technology.” 

The network will be operated and managed at the SJGC building by former U.S. Congressman J.C. Watts; Robert “Bob” Brillante, a 30-year cable TV veteran and founder of Florida’s News Channel’ Frank Wastson, a 30-year broadcast industry veteran; former U.S. House of Representatives Budget Director Steve Pruitt and Evan Leo, one of Washington D.C.’s telecommunications and regulatory attorneys. 

“We’re excited to be among the energy of the youth on this campus,” Watts said. “The world only gets a sliver of who the Black community is today.” 

The mission of the BTNC is to produce programming that is educational, informative, amusing, inspiring and empowering to Blacks. This will be an 11-year contractual partnership that will position FAMU to be the home of a 24-hour, multi-platform news network. 

“This is a historic day, not only for HBCU’s but for all schools of journalism across the nation,” Williams, a FAMU alumnus and representative said. 

The first year of the partnership will be dedicated to renovating, upgrading and installing equipment in the SJGC building, with a total price tag of $10 million. 

Ann W. Kimbrough, DBA, SJGC dean said the contract positions FAMU to be on the cutting-edge in training future multimedia professionals. BTNC will be an independent manager of the school’s course of study in network broadcasting and operations. 

“We are excited about this visionary opportunity that connects our mission with that of the Black television news channel’s goals,” Kimbrough said. 

Kimbrough also noted that this new partnership will draw in expert faculty and the university’s ability to attract high-quality journalism students from around the globe.